The way Australians talk is peppered with many words that are unique to our version of English. The history of Australian English starts with kangaroo (1770) and Captain James Cook’s glossary of local words used in negotiations with the Endeavour River tribes. The language was pidgin.
Australian English- is a major variety of the English language and is used throughout Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is Australia's de facto official language and is the first language of the majority of the population. Australian English started diverging from British English after the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788 and was recognised as being different from British English by 1820. It arose from the intermingling of children of early settlers from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of the British Isles and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English
The aboriginal vocabulary, which is one of the trademarks of Australian English, included billabong (a waterhole), jumbuck (a sheep), corroboree (an assembly), boomerang (a curved throwing stick), and budgerigar (from budgeree, “good” and gar, “parrot”). The number of Aboriginal words in Australian English is quite small and is confined to the namings of plants (like bindieye and calombo), trees (like boree, banksia, quandong and mallee), birds (like currawong, galah and kookaburra), animals (like wallaby and wombat) and fish (like barramindi). As in North America , when it comes to place-names the Aboriginal influence was much greater: with a vast continent to name, about a third of all Australian place-names are Aboriginal. The Aborigines also adopted words from maritime pidgin English, words like piccaninny and bilong (belong). They used familiar pidgin English variants like talcum and catchum. The most famous example is gammon, an eighteenth-century Cockney word meaning “a lie”.
In 1945 Sidney J. Baker published the book The Australian Language which was a milestone in the emergence of a separate Australian Standard. Since 1945 the Australian vernacular continues to flourish. Australian English incorporates several uniquely Australian terms, such as outback to refer to remote regional areas, walkabout to refer to a long journey of uncertain length and bush to refer to native forested areas, but also to regional areas as well. Fair dinkum can mean “are you telling me the truth?”, “this is the truth!”, or “this is ridiculous!” depending on context - the disputed origin dates back to the gold rush in the 1850s, “dinkum” being derived from the Chinese word for “gold” or “real gold”: fair dinkum is the genuine article. G'day is well known as a stereotypical Australian greeting - it is worth noting that G'day is not synonymous with the expression “Good Day”, and is never used as an expression for "farewell". Many of these terms have been adopted into British English via popular culture and family links. Some elements of Aboriginal languages, as has already been mentioned, have been incorporated into Australian English, mainly as names for the indigenous flora and fauna (e.g. dingo,kangaroo), as well as extensive borrowings for place names. Beyond that, very few terms have been adopted into the wider language. A notable exception is Cooee (a musical call which travels long distances in the bush and is used to say “is there anyone there?”). Although often thought of as an Aboriginal word, didgeridoo/didjeridu (a well known wooden musical instrument) is actually an onomatopoeic term coined by an English settler. Australian English has a unique set of diminutives formed by adding -o or -ie (-y) to the ends of (often abbreviated) words. There does not appear to be any particular pattern to which of these suffixes is used. Examples with the -o ending include
abo (aborigine - now considered very offensive),
Bibliography: Please note: The references listed below do not represent required reading for this module. This is simply a listing of the references cited in this module. On-campus students may, if they wish, use this list as a guide to further reading. External students should note that they will not be disadvantaged because of their inability to gain access to the following books and articles as they are optional additional reading only.
Bernard, J.R. (1970) "Toward the acoustic specification of Australian English", Zeitschrift fur Phonetik, Sprachwissenschaft und Kommunikationsforschung, Band 23, Heft 2/3
Bernard, J.R. and Mannell, R.H. (1986) "A study /h_d/ words in Australian English", Working Papers of the Speech, Hearing and Language Research Centre, Macquarie University
Clark, J.E. (1989) "Some proposals for a revised phonetic transcription of Australian English" in Collins, P. & Blair, D. (eds) Australian English: The Language of a New Society, Univ. Queensland Press.
Cox, F. M. (1996) An acoustic study of vowel variation in Australian English, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Macquarie University.
Cox, F. M. (2006) "The acoustic characteristics of /hVd/ Vowels in the Speech of some Australian teenagers ", Australian Journal of Linguistics, 26, 147-179.
Cox, F. M. (2006) "Australian English Pronunciation into the 21st Century" Prospect: Australian Journal of TESOL, 21, 3-21.
Harrington, J., Cox, F., & Evans, Z. (1997) "An acoustic study of broad, general and cultivated Australian English vowels", Australian Journal of Linguistics, 17, 155-184.
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